Most Alabama residents are aware that the penalties for drunk driving can be severe: loss of driving privileges, a fine and potential incarceration. What many residents do not realize, however, is how quickly a charge of DWI can escalate into a charge of a far more serious crime. A recent collision that killed two teenagers near Dothan offers a dramatic demonstration of how this can happen.

The accident

According to Alabama State Troopers, at about 4:00 p.m., on July 7, a Ford F-150 collided with the rear end of a Nissan Altima on U.S.84 near its intersection with Ala. Hwy. 123. Four teenagers were riding in the Altima. A fifteen-year-old girl was pronounced dead at the scene, and three other passengers were taken to Flowers Hospital in Dothan. The driver of the Ford F-150 was also hospitalized in Dothan. One of the three teenagers, a seventeen-year-old boy, died at the hospital.

The driver of the Ford pickup was initially charged with driving while intoxicated. He was released from the Dothan hospital after he was treated. When police learned of the deaths of the two teenagers, they obtained a warrant for the pickup driver’s arrest. The man was arrested and is now incarcerated in the Houston County Jail.

Additional charges

The charges against the defendant are no longer limited to a DWI. The deaths of the two teenagers and the driver’s alleged intoxication have combined to make his legal predicament far more perilous. Instead, the man is now facing murder charges. The deaths of the two teenagers have changed the man’s offense from possible DWI to manslaughter. The potential penalty upon conviction is a jail term from one to ten years depending upon the verdict.

As with any crime, the defendant in this case is entitled to be presumed innocent unless and until the jury finds him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. While this presumption may be comforting, it will not be enough to obtain an acquittal in this case. The defendant in this case, or anyone facing similar charges, will benefit greatly from a consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney.

Help from a lawyer

A knowledgeable attorney can provide a helpful evaluation of the evidence and spot any weaknesses in the prosecution’s case. A capable attorney can also suggest potential defense strategies for use during pretrial discovery and later at trial. Perhaps the greatest service that a defense attorney can provide is the negotiation of a plea agreement that will substantially shorten any jail sentence and reduce any post-incarceration penalties such as supervised release.